Managing and protecting your valuable assets: Your trade marks

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Brand + Business x Christine Moody, BA GradDip(Comn)(Dist) FAIM FDIA GAICD*

What’s in a brand name?
Brand identity is fast becoming one of the most valuable assets for a business. Contemporary asset value (for intangible assets such as brands) is now nearly 85% of the market value of S&P 500 companies, according to an annual survey by Ocean Tomo in 2015. Yet protection of brand identity is often overlooked until it’s too late.

While ‘brand’ is most often associated with logos, it actually encompasses much more. Brand and brand name is integral to how the Brand and brand name is integral to how the organisation engages with its customers and market, and in many cases is its most recognisable asset. This is particularly the case for businesses that have little in the way of physical infrastructure or locations. The best way to protect your brand identity is with Trade Marks.

Yet protection of brand identity is often overlooked until it’s too late.

Protecting your brand identity
When businesses commence trading, business name and domain name registration is often in place but often Trade Mark registration isn’t considered important. Many business owners think that they will “get around to it later down the track”. This is not an issue until the business is sold or takes on new partners and investors, and during the due diligence process, someone asks “who owns the Trade Mark and is it registered?”.

There also seems to be a lot of confusion about the differences between registering a business name and registering a website domain name, versus Trade Mark registration…

There also seems to be a lot of confusion about the differences between registering a business name (via ASIC) and registering a website domain name, versus Trade Mark registration, which is a completely separate process. Registering your business name and a website domain are not enough to protect your brand name or identity. In Australia, brands and Trade Marks are registered via IP Australia.

Trade Mark registration
According to IP Australia, each year individuals and businesses lodge more than 134,500  (2015/16) Trade Mark Applications with potential brand names and brand identities. Often these applications are not accepted because they haven’t been screened prior to lodging and/or the Trade Marks are similar to those already registered.

To ensure your brand identity has the best chance of registration, there are four important stages prior to lodging your trade mark application:

  1. Gain an understanding of the strategic plan of the business and the industry sector as well as current and future plans—new products and services.
  2. Complete an initial search of similar brand identities in the same sector to ensure there is nothing similar—the point here is to create a unique identity to protect your commercial space in the market and enable you to differentiate your organisation from your competitors.
  3. It’s important not to fall in love with the first idea and keep an open mind as the brand name and the brand identity need to be timeless and adaptable to future business direction.
  4. The brand name is a strategic decision and consideration must be made to its translation across all customer ‘touch points’—from website to bricks-and-mortar stores.

How do you maintain brand protection?
Successful trade mark registration isn’t enough for long-term brand protection. We help
organisations leverage this important asset by:

  • Conducting regular brand audits: Formal registration means easier and more effective protection of your competitive market but your organisation must use the trade mark in its registered format on all existing and new communication touchpoints.
  • Creating education programs and workshops with staff and suppliers on the importance of asset protection: Workshops to ensure all employees, suppliers and other stakeholders understand their role in ensuring the proper use of the trade mark
  • Quarterly reviews of existing and new products and services to ensure ongoing protection and new applications are lodged in a timely manner: As new products and services come online, the process of protection should be repeated.

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*Christine Moody is one of Australia’s leading brand strategists and the founder of brand management consultancy, Brand Audits. With more than 30 years’ professional experience, Christine has helped a diverse client base of local and international brands, including Gold Coast City Council, Hilton Hotels and Wrigleys USA, to develop, protect and achieve brand differentiation. Her particular interest is personal brand audits to assist executives realise their full potential. She is also an author and a law student.

For more information: chris.moody@brandaudits.com.au or +61 419 888 468.

(Photo: Shanghai Flower Shop x Christine Moody)

 

 

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